Introduction: Dead Rat™ Hard Apple Cider Recipe

Picture of Dead Rat™ Hard Apple Cider Recipe

In theory at least, cider can be made from one single ingredient – Apples! But, traditionally, if the fermentation struggles to get going, it was thought that throwing a dead rat into the vat would help it along. Let's just hope we never have this problem!

In the modern age the cider maker pasteurises his apple juice and inoculates it with a special cider yeast. The only other ingredient would be a very small amount of sugar or honey in the bottling stage to get the cider to be nice and fizzy.

Before I start, let it be said that I am not a great cider lover. Actually, I do not like English farm yard scrumpy cider at all and the only cider I have really enjoyed is that which comes from the land of Normandy in France, and from very particular farm yards in that district. Some of these guys have been making their cider for hundred's of years, passing on their secret recipes from one generation to the next. Some years ago now, I tried to spy on their process by disguising myself as a farmyard donkey and managed to get most of the recipe before being discovered by an amorous farm hand. Sadly, I can not elaborate on this as the full storey is not appropriate for our younger readers.

A big part of the recipe is that they never use any artificial ingredients or chemicals so their product is guaranteed at least 99% apples (or pears). So much cider we buy in the shops in the UK is industrialised rubbish full of chemicals, truck loads of sugar and hardly any apples - YUK! Proper English Farm yard cider is ok, but I just don't like the taste. It's a personal thing. Some of my friends love it.

Other than eradicate world poverty and provide everybody with immortality, there is one last task I wish to do with my life before I die and that is to produce a bottle of hard cider that I actually enjoy drinking - to successfully replicate traditional Normandy Cider.

I realise that this is a perfectly impossible task and so, anticipating my imminent failure, I am psychologically prepared to rectify the situation by turning the bad cider that I produce into very nice apple brandy and relieving my overwhelming sense of failure by drinking that instead!

The finished product was bottled up and taken to Ffarm Moelyci for appraisal by a panel of expert hard cider drinkers, but, sadly, none of them could taste the essential Dead Rat™ flavour and so ultimately the recipe had to be marked down as a failure.

Step 1: Equipment

Picture of Equipment

In times gone by, cider making used to involve some very exotic and complicated machinery that, apart from being very expensive, would add many unwanted bacteria and other microorganisms into the brewing pot.

Living next door to a cider factory had some advantages, for one, unlimited cider as I was small enough to crawl through a hole in the fence and help myself to the brew straight from the giant wooden vats located inside. I always left a few coins as payment .

In those days, cider drinking started at the tender age of twelve and the apples were brought in by horse and cart and dumped in their hessian bags right by the roadside. Quite often, if the vats were all in full production, the apples would be left lying there for several weeks attracting all kinds of animals, slugs and other creatures until they were quite rotten and seeping through the lining of the bag. In this case, rather than discard the precious fruit, the whole bag was chucked into the processing machine, hessian, rats, mice, slugs and all!

Apart from getting slowly poisoned by the acidic liquor going through the lead pipes, it was a wonder that I never actually got food poisoning very often, but I guess I must have built up a natural resistance to it.

Another interesting observation was that most of the workers in the factory were almost constantly intoxicated, except for the first ten minutes after their arrival in the morning. All the workers were allowed to drink as much cider as they wanted.This is how I knew I could get away with the donkey disguise later on in life when engaging in espionage in Normandy – The workers would be too drunk to tell the difference between me and a real donkey.


Knowledge of health and hygiene was virtually non-existent and it was often quoted that the workers deliberately put a dead rat into the cider to help the fermentation. I can assure you that this is a complete myth and the reason why rats were found in the brew was more by accident than a deliberate act. Other than in the sacks of apples, rats would also crawl around on top of the rafters above the open tops of the vats and sometimes, through a badly miss judged scuttle, they would simply fall into the vat and drown.

In more recent times people have been able to use more hygienic equipment, namely a scratter and a press but this has always been quite expensive to do with a reasonable degree of economy of scale and hygiene.

In this recipe, only one machine is required as there is no chopping of apples needed.

Equipment Required:

Step 2: Ingedients

  • Apples
  • Cider making yeast
  • Sugar

Please do not add a dead rat into the brew. Yes, I know it's called 'Dead Rat™ Cider', but actually, there is NO DEAD RAT! There's not even a dead possum. There are no dead animals used in this recipe.

Step 3: Procedure

1.Source your apples and/or pears. Many people on my island have apple trees and let the apples go to waste so they can be obtained for free, with permission of course!
2. Check the apples for bugs etc, make sure that they are ripe and wash in potable water. Bruised apples are ok but not rotten ones!
3. Fire up the juicer and bang the apples through it as fast as possible. It is actually almost impossible to destroy this machine as there are some very fancy electronics that stop it from being overloaded. The best speed that I had with the BJE410UK was 60 L of apple juice per hour!
4. Pour the apple juice into a 30 L plastic tub and scoop off the foamy stuff that rises to the top and discard (see photo). A strainer bag could be used at this point to remove most of the coarse material and increase the yield slightly, but is not essential. My strainer bag is fastened to the top of a 6" PVC soil pipe that has been slotted out with a jigsaw (see photo). The gunk left in the filter bag is called 'Lees' and can be used to make nice apple flavoured bread or cakes.
5. Pasteurise the apple juice by heating it to 80 degrees C for 5 minutes in a large stainless steel stock pot. This will kill most of the bacteria and yeast that will be in it.
6. Allowed to cool to below 25°C and pitch in the yeast. Measure the specific gravity if you want to know the final alcohol strength (optional).
7. Sterilise the 30 l plastic tub with boiling water. Chemicals are totally unnecessary .
8. Snap on the lid, which should have a airlock mounted in it to prevent oxygen fri turning the alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar).
9. Leave in a warm place to ferment. This should be finished after approx. 1 month.
10. Measure the specific gravity again (optional), sterilise the bottles with boiling water and add exactly 8g of sugar per litre of cider for lots of fizz. If you want a more moderate fizz, use 4g of sugar. Don't try and put the sugar into the bottles with a teaspoon as it is very messy - work out the maths and add the sugar to the main tub . An alternative is to use small stainless steel kegs and bottled carbon dioxide. Don't use the plastic pressure kegs as they are totally useless as the pressure causes them to leak. If using bottles, make sure that the tops are very well secured as the pressure may blow them off. All bottles used must be resistant to the pressures generated by the sugar. Swing top bottles are best!
11. Leave the bottles for another 20 days to generate carbon dioxide and go fizzy.
12. Carefully open the top of the bottle, preparing for a whole load of fizzy bubbles to come out. It may well be just like champagne! DO NOT shake the bottle and aim it at your friend as this will waste the cider.
13. Now drink and hopefully it will taste delicious. Please drink sensibly - one 500ml bottle per day would be a maximum amount.

Step 4: Labelling

Picture of Labelling

Feel free to use my amazing Dead Rat™ Cider labels. Not for commercial use.

Step 5: Tasting the Cider

The panel of expert cider drinkers at Ffarm Moelyci put the Dead Rat™ through it's paces. Unfortunately, although people liked the taste of the cider, nobody could taste the special Dead Rat™ flavour.

Step 6: Final

So there we have it, how to make Normandy cider, a recipe handed down through the generations in one family only to be stolen by one man disguised as a donkey. There are lessons to be learnt, for one I would never use the donkey disguise again as I had no idea how intense the relationship between a farm hand and a donkey could get! I think a smelly old goat with very big horns would have been more appropriate.

Also, as you may have guessed, there is probably a lot more to cider making than the aforementioned. One thing that would be a good idea is to brew each apple variety in different fermenting vessels and compare and contrast the different tastes. This would then lead to blending where two or more varieties would be blended together to create a new and more interesting flavour. The possibilities are endless as there are many hundreds of different apple varieties and each tree grows differently depending on the environmental conditions such as soil, sunshine, temperature etc. More information can be found here: http://cider.org.uk/

Happy cider making everybody!

Please in the competitions - top right - Thanks!

Comments

Emma Schade-Stylli (author)2016-10-11

Great stuff!

BrettHacks (author)2015-11-29

Voted! After my last attempt at beer failed miserably. With it ending up tasting, and smelling, quite like a dead rat, I think cider might be the way to go. Thanks for your
"as usual" extremely entertaining and informative instructable.

Thanks Brett! Good luck with the cider making, it's quite easy really.

Bojengles24 (author)2015-11-28

About how long would this keep?

The last batch has been in the fermenting tub for about 10 months before bottling and tasted great. Generally the higher the alcohol and higher the acidity the better the chance of longevity.

Justs1 (author)2015-11-19

If you live near a apple farm with a store they will usually have unpasturized soft cider for sale in plastic gallon jugs. take it home and set it on the counter, wait until the jug expands to where the bottom bulges out and burp the cap. Repeat then place in fridge. drink.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)Justs12015-11-29

Sounds reasonable to me, thanks!

jimbrody (author)2015-11-24

2.5 bushel give or take. I know we are a bit behind on the metric thing. We spell different also, no K here. Sounds like a great recipe, thanks for sharing. I would love to try a bottle, but I'm in the U.S.

MacFadyin (author)2015-11-19

A piece of toast spread wih Marmite will also make the cider fall clear

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)MacFadyin2015-11-24

This sounds reasonable.

SPeacock (author)2015-11-19

I helped a ethnic German group of farmers in Missouri make hard cider. They'd uncover a previous 200 gallon wooden barrel, pump out the contents for the parties that week. Excavate the the barrel, clean out the the muck, hose it down and pump out the dregs. The squeezed, filtered apple juice was poured in the barrel now back in the hole. A bag of yeast was added and 10 pounds of very lean ground beef (yeast needs protein to do its work). The lid was fastened and sealed and the entire kibosh covered over with new dirt.

Like your rat, there was never an inkling of the hamburger and the brew was clear as good crystal, but amber tainted and tasting.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)SPeacock2015-11-24

Fresh, hygienic beef sounds like a much better than a random disease infested rat, although I suppose the rats could be bred in cages to prevent disease and processed hygienically. BTW I'm not keen on keeping caged animals. Maybe some minced wild venison would be better.

lmarques1 (author)2015-11-19

This made me thirsty!

Cider, if you consider the real thing, is not really easy to find here in Brazil.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)lmarques12015-11-19

Have you got apples?

lmarques1 (author)Tecwyn Twmffat2015-11-19

Sure! And my girlfriend got a juicer! I will try this! Once I fermented mango juice, let's try this with apples now. Can I use Fleschmann bakery yeast?

HerrBergmann (author)lmarques12015-11-19

I would avoid that if possible, not sure of your yeast options in Brazil, but baker yeast could potentialy make some nasty tasting cider. Although it is possible.

Definitely use proper beer/wine/cider yeast although the natural yeast in the apple usually works ok too.

jimbrody (author)2015-11-19

I have been looking for a hard cider recipe for a long time. Can you give an estimate for the number of bushels of apples required for a batch?

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)jimbrody2015-11-24

Bushels? ........ Err ....... Maybe 45 kg apples for 30 litres of cider. Sorry, we've gone metrick!

PelayoS (author)2015-11-22

Have you tasted asturian cider? If not, come and do it. Come to Asturias, in the north of Spain.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)PelayoS2015-11-24

I'm sure it is fantastic! YUM!

Hakkadosh (author)2015-11-24

ive been brewing cider fo around 20 years or so.

love this recipe well done

i use campden tablets (sodium meta bisulphate) instead of the boil. i like the smell the way it is the boil changes it a bit. i strain just before i prepare to bottle its more cloudy but i love the flavour.

try adding some "yeast nutrient" before you put the lid on. instead of the rat lol.

one thing you did not say is it really matters what apples you use. they all taste different and you need to find a raw flavour you love as it improves a bit but not much.

i also add a handful or 2 of sultanas or rasons to the mix before you sterilise it for that little something extra

for a more crisp finish use champagne yeast Lalvin Ec-1118 or a sweet beer yeast like safeale us-05 for a softer finish.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)Hakkadosh2015-11-24

Thanks Hakkadosh! Yes, more advanced cider making needs to take account of the yeast and apples used. Apple selection is indeed crucial and yes, flavours change and develop with time. I'm making a spicy cider at the moment and used a tried and tested spice mix which initially tastes pretty vile but literally 7 days later starts to taste quite pleasant. There must be some complicated chemical changes going on as the brew matures.

LM5629 (author)2015-11-22

There is a bit of polemic about the "borders" of Bretagne, but here is the official version. Yes, it's depend a lot of the producer, and the consumer need a bit of knowledge for finding a good "bottle" and avoid drinking industrial sh*t ;)

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)LM56292015-11-22

Cider producers / drinkers around the world need to unite to retrieve the integrity of our product from the industrialist charlatans .

LM5629 (author)2015-11-22

I don't want to restart the eternal war between Normandy and Bretagne, but, sorry, Bretagne Cider is just much better ;)

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)LM56292015-11-22

Actually I was trying to remember wether I was in Bretagne or Normandy - it is all a bit of a blurr. The main thing is that each individual producer created something entirely different, even next door neighbours. The fun is to go out on a bicycle and explore.

bricobart (author)2015-11-18

My wife is from Normandy, like I said already somewhere, and in those early days I discovered the difference between the industruial stuff & the real stuff. Talking about that cider, not the wife. I discovered that the dirtier, the remoter, the unfriendlier the maker, the better its cider. I hope you're really as dirty & unfriendly as I think you are - I already know you àre remote - and I'm sure your cider will be okay!

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)bricobart2015-11-18

Don't worry Bart, I am the dirtiest and most unfriendly cider maker you'll ever meet! (As you can see from my avatar).

bricobart (author)Tecwyn Twmffat2015-11-18

It's only an avatar?! Anyway, I'm really looking forward to taste the Dead Rat sometime - as a vegetarian I consider this accidental drowning as collateral damage we have to live with..

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)bricobart2015-11-19

Well, I guess I should send you a bottle in the post? As long as you are not a judge for this competition! You deserve this gift after the nightmare you had with that kitchen cabinet project. PM me your address - I promise I am not a stalker!

PS. If anybody else wants a bottle of Dead Rat™ please let me know.

bricobart (author)Tecwyn Twmffat2015-11-20

I'm not a judge in this contest - yet - and I will welcome your gift with 40 cannon shots at sunrise. Thank you my friend!

Do not worry about my nightmare, btw. The keyword has been Bernardus 12. And Rochefort 10. And Duvel IPA. Don't remember anymore in which order...

dcampbell13 (author)2015-11-20

this sounds very good! I have brewed beer and made wine for over two decades but I can say I have never made apple cider. I think I want to make some now due to your witty humor. I would love to taste some, that is if the offer still stands?

Casper Banana (author)2015-11-19

There I was sat enjoying the sun when along comes old tecwyn carrying his rattling bottles of cider. "Here, try this" he says with a gurning grin. Once I'd overcome the rodenty aroma, I smiled at the vermin tinted liquid and took a glug or three. "You know what" I said "It tastes bloomin' marvellous"

bhisma (author)2015-11-19

Fermentation of apple juice stops if nitrogen sources are exhausted. The apple contains many different sugars and organic acids, but very little protein. Microorganisms can not go ahead with the fermentation if they don't have a source of available nitrogen.
Using a dead rat in order to promote fermentation seems a little bit extreme and dangerous; in some places human urine have been used in the past as a source of nitrogene. Urine of healthy individuals is sterile ( no bacteria, fungi or viruses)

Phil_S (author)bhisma2015-11-19

Difficult to tell the difference between cider and pee

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)bhisma2015-11-19

Thankyou for the info Bhisma ...... But, as the recipe clearly states ....... There are no dead rats in it! The whole Dead Rat thing is a marketing tool to be launched on Kickstarter in the next few days. Watch this space!

silkier (author)2015-11-19

The old canard I knew for the scrumpy makers in my area was that if they didn't chuck a piece of steak into the vat (too miserly) they just wopped in an old car battery. Added that little je ne sais quoi .

Used to do scrumpy runs with my friends to the most remote farms and hell was that stuff rough.

I remember The Davenport Arms on Fore Street only served the rough stuff to regulars, anyone not in the know got the more "commercial" blend; must have saved numerous cases of cirrhosis over the years.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)silkier2015-11-19

OMG! Lead poisoning!

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)2015-11-19

OMG! Lead poisoning!

soundcloset (author)2015-11-19

I love the method of letting the plastic jug expand, then burp it...nice. I got the little air-trap plastic tube thingy at the local brew-it-yerself store and used a big wine jug to ferment some non-preservatived cider, threw in some yeast, watched it 'til it stopped bubbling, then capped it. Next day my wife called, your jug exploded! She very kindly cleaned it up...what could she do? Given the recent rediscover over here of hard cider there's a lot of it on the market. A little more expensive than beer, but she can't do gluten, so I get cider for Hilary and beer for me. Thanks for your well-written article! #1 son wants to try a still next...!

gworld (author)2015-11-19

Nice! Very enjoyable reading. also makes me think that actually I might be able to make some cider... simply by following your recipe. Thanks for sharing.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)gworld2015-11-19

Thanks gworld, making cider is fairly straightforward. Good luck!

rmac704 (author)2015-11-18

I really enjoyed reading your I'ble. It's a great story making a unique product. What would be a good substitute for a Sage Nutri Juicer in the states? Apparently they're only found in the UK. I found them on Ebay in the UK but shipping cost more than the juicer! Thanks my friend!

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)rmac7042015-11-18

Apologies to you rmac704! The USA version is not called a Sage Nutri Juicer. I have amended the equipment section with the correct machine for the USA. Thank you for prompting me.

tstafford4 (author)2015-11-17

only one bottle? How about two or three.. maybe four on the first go around? ya kn I w, just to celebrate the first batch!

Brewing ones own alcohol and not becoming an alcoholic is fairly important !

cammers (author)2015-11-17

Thanks for a great I'ble.
I'm going to try this with some of those roadside apples that get wasted by the ton every season.

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)cammers2015-11-17

Excellent idea! Don't forget to report back with your results.

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Bio: Ugly pirate roaming the seas in search of Treasure.
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